Why Tonight’s Debates are Bogus

This annoys me to no end, as a citizen, and just outright frustrates me as an editor working in one small corner of the media—the presidential debates are on tonight, and once again, the very premise of the debate is a giant lie. Incumbent Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are going to go at each other in a format designed to make it look as if they are the only two people running for president and they are not. Absolutely not!

Why isn’t Gov. Gary Johnson, two-term governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian party candidate for president, going to be on that stage?

Why isn’t Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, going to be on that stage

I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes this entire debate kabuki. Email them here: comments@debates.org.

Here is the Commission’s high-minded and utterly dishonest mission statement:

“The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

How can the CPD claim to provide “the best possible information”—and be nonpartisan—when it deliberately silences all but two parties? Plenty of Americans are fed up with both Team Blue and Team Red, the Rs and the Ds. Maybe we’d like to hear from somebody else for a change, or at least in addition to the usual rhetoric. What gives?

If you’re thinking, well, Stein and Johnson don’t have a snowball’s chance in Kilauea of winning, who ever votes for Greens or Libertarians?—well, yes, of course, you’re probably right. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy though. There’s something un-American about a system that establishes an elite tier of “real” parties while disenfranchising—yes, folks, this is what systemic disenfranchisement of political thought actually looks like—the aspirations of Americans who look at the Big Two and say, “These people do not represent me at all, why am I stuck with them?”

By the way, as I was working on this I learned about still more presidential candidates (though I don’t know if all of them appear on the Hawaii ballot, alternate parties need a critical mass of signatures to get on the ballots, on a state-by-state basis). In addition to Stein and Johnson, there are also Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

I learned about them at a terrific website, Isidewith.com.

There you can take a quiz on where you stand on such things as foreign policy, the economy, domestic policy, healthcare, the environment and social issues. Then it will tell you, down to percentages, not only which presidential candidate you agree with most, but the degree to which you agree with all six presidential candidates.

My own results only reinforce for me how much the media’s support for a red-blue duopoly is a disservice to political discourse in America. My highest match with any of the candidates was 87 percent, meaning that if this person wins, he or she will appear to me to be a raving lunatic 13 percent of the time. I even had a 43 percent match with a candidate I’d never vote for in a million years. Lowest two matches for me were at 14 and 5 percent, so even with the two candidates furthest from me politically there was at least a policy or two in their platform we’d agree upon.

That’s how Americans really live their politics, in mixed plates and grab bags, a little from this party, a little from that party. It’s well past time for the gatekeepers and headline writers to start reflecting that, and start supporting us, the voters, in our politics, instead of upholding just two of the parties as they are.

Here endeth the rant.